Monthly Archives: February 2016

Teamwork Series: Each one for everyone

Does each member on your team understand their role and contribution? Do they understand that doing their part the best they can is critical to the team? The following story on teamwork highlights the importance of everyone’s role to the success of the team.

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One sunny morning something caught the mouse’s eye through a crack in the wall. It was a package the farmer’s wife was opening. The mouse wondered what kind of delicious food it might contain. To his surprise it wasn’t food, but a mouse trap!

As the mouse scurried out to the yard he shouted a loud warning to all. “Watch out for the mousetrap in the house! Watch out for the mousetrap in the house!” The chicken raised his head and said, “I can tell my friend that this causes you great worry, but it is of no worry to me. Please don’t bother me with it!”

The mouse then turned to the pig who said, “Sorry Mr. Mouse, it has no consequence to me either.” The mouse then turned to the bull who said, “Sounds like you have a problem friend, but it really doesn’t concern me… sorry, I will keep you in my thoughts and prayers.” The mouse went back to the house to face the mousetrap alone. He felt down and dejected.

That night the sound of the trap was heard throughout the house – Snap! The farmer’s wife rushed to see what was caught, but couldn’t see in the darkness that it was a venomous snake. She was bitten! After rushing his wife to the hospital, the farmer returned home with her. She had quite a fever. The farmer knew the best way to treat her fever was with chicken soup so he took his hatchet to the farmyard to get his main ingredient.

The wife grew sicker by the day and friends kept visiting her throughout the days and around the clock. The farmer felt he had to feed them so he slaughtered the pig. The farmer’s wife unfortunately didn’t get better and eventually died. There were many, many people who came to pay their final respects. The farmer had the cow butchered so he could feed them all.

Each member of the team plays an important role in the team’s success. You may think that because someone on the team is struggling that it doesn’t concern you, but it does. When everyone pulls together the team wins.

Teamwork Series: Diversity brings strength

The following teamwork story illustrates the need for every member of the team regardless of their differing talents and gifts. It is a powerful reminder of why leaders and team members must embrace diversity.

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Have you ever heard of the Aesop Fable, “The Belly and the Members?” As you read the following story I encourage you to think about your own teams and how this might apply. One day it occurred to The Members (parts) of the Body that they were doing all of the work while the Belly got all of the food. They believed the Belly was lazy and unproductive.

It was decided that they would hold a meeting that evening to discuss how unfair this seemed. After what was a very long meeting that night it was voted on that The Members of the Body would go on strike until the Belly agreed to take its proper share of the work.

The unhappy body parts didn’t do anything for several days in an attempt to stop feeding the Belly. The Legs stopped walking, the Hands stopped moving and the Teeth stopped chewing. As a result of this inactivity and the starving of the Belly, the Legs became more and more tired, the Hands could hardly move anymore and the Mouth became parched and very dry.

Eventually the entire Body collapsed and passed away as the Belly completely starved.

What is the moral of the story? Team dynamics are complex. Here are four important team tips to remember:

• Some members of the teams contributions may seem less significant or of less value than others. Especially as it compares to those louder and possibly more prominent members of the team.

• It is important that every member of the team understands their unique roles and what they bring to the team. It is also important that they clearly understand everyone else’s roles and contributions.

• Another moral of this story is the need for teams to refrain from evil speaking of each other, gossip, jumping to conclusions and a whole host of other potential team illnesses. Doing so weakens teams and organizations.

• While team member accountability is critical, it should never become personal or be based on ill-fated assumptions. Accountability must be based on trust, which is not something that magically happens, it must be built consciously and over time.

• Because everyone in the organization or on the team plays an important role to the success of the agreed upon goals, the vision and goals of the leader must be cascaded up and down the organization so everyone is in alignment.

Teamwork Series: Working together

Teamwork in the workplace can be difficult. Teams at work often consist of a variety of conflicting personalities and styles. Getting to a point in which a team can collaborate and work in harmony can be a difficult task for a leader and takes time.

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Steve Jobs tells the story of a widowed man he had gotten to know in his eighties who lived up the street from him when he was a young boy. “When I was a young kid there was a widowed man who lived up the street. He was in his eighties. He’s a little scary looking. And I got to know him a little bit. I think he may have paid me to mow his lawn.

One day he said to me, “come on into my garage I want to show you something.” And he pulled out this dusty old rock tumbler. It was a motor and a coffee can and a little band between them. And he said, “come on with me.” We went out into the back and we got some rocks. Some regular old ugly rocks. And we put them in the can with a little bit of liquid and little bit of grit powder, and we closed the can up and he turned this motor on and he said, “come back tomorrow.”

And this can was making a racket as the stones went around.I came back the next day and we opened the can. And we took out these amazingly beautiful polished rocks. The same common stones that had gone in through rubbing against each other like this (clapping his hands), creating a little bit of friction, creating a little bit of noise, had come out these beautiful polished rocks.

That’s always been in my mind my metaphor for a team working really hard on something they’re passionate about. It’s that through the team, through that group of incredibly talented people bumping up against each other, having arguments, having fights sometimes, making some noise, and working together they polish each other and they polish the ideas, and what comes out are these beautiful stones.”

Teams, he states, are like these stones. Individually we can be fairly normal, ordinary and even a bit rough. But through the process of teamwork we can end up in a very different state. Jobs states that teams consisting of incredibly talented people who are passionate and are working hard towards something often times bump up against each other, argue, sometimes fight and make some noise. By working together they polish one another and their ideas and in the process create beautiful stones.

Have you built up enough trust on your teams to allow bumping up against one another and passionately arguing on occasion? Passive, “follow the leader” types of teams are destined to fail. Each member of a team brings something unique. They are unique in their gifts, ideas and arguments. Team members must feel like they can express themselves without embarrassment or retribution. Leaders who embrace the process of “tumbling stones” on their teams create more efficiency, better ideas, better problem solving and ultimately better teamwork.

Teamwork Series: Supporting each other

One of the marks of a great leader is the ability to get his or her team to pull together and to feel they are a part of something really special (vision). And one of the greatest blessings to a leader is to have that team pull together and support each other. A good team can make a leader feel a great deal stronger.

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Once there was man who was lost while driving through the country. As he tried to read a map while driving, he accidentally drove off the road into a deep muddy ditch. Though not injured, his car was stuck. So the man walked to a nearby farm.

There he saw an old farmer and asked for help. The farmer replied, “Warwick can get you out of that ditch,” pointing to an old mule standing in a field. The man looked at the old run-down mule and then looked at the farmer who just stood there repeating, “Yep, old Warwick can do the job.”

The man figured he had nothing to lose. The two men and Warwick made their way back to the ditch. The farmer hitched the mule to the car. With a snap of the reigns he shouted, “Pull, Fred! Pull, Jack! Pull, Ted! Pull, Warwick!” And the mule pulled the car from the ditch with very little effort.

The man was amazed. He thanked the farmer, patted the mule and asked, “Why did you call out all those other names before you called Warwick?” The farmer grinned and said, “Old Warwick is just about blind. As long as he believes he is part of a team, he doesn’t mind pulling.”

Aren’t you grateful for teams! We can do so much more together than we can ever do alone.

Teamwork Series: Sharing

In the pursuit of individual goals and milestones, more often than not people forget that it is not them alone but a cohesive team that will eventually be critical towards reaching the larger goal. The story below demonstrates how with the aid of a simple act of information sharing, a team can achieve its targets more quickly and efficiently.

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A team of about 35 employees had come together for a team building event. They were a young, bright and enthusiastic team. However, one big problem this team had was they wouldn’t share information or solutions with each other. The leader felt they were too focused on self and not enough on team.

So she started off with a fun team activity that would allow her to teach the importance of each team member working together and sharing more. She brought the team into the cafeteria. All of the tables and chairs had been stacked and put away. Placed around the room were fun decorations and hundreds of different colored balloons.

Everyone was excited, but not sure what it was all about.

In the center of the room was a big box of balloons that had not been blown up yet. The team leader asked each person to pick a balloon, blow it up and write their name on it. But they were instructed to be careful because the balloon could pop! A few balloons did indeed pop and those members of the team were given another chance, but were told that if the balloon popped again they were out of the game.

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About 30 team members were able to get their name on a balloon without it popping. Those 30 were asked to leave their balloons and exit the room. They were told they had qualified for the second round. Five minutes later the leader brought the team back into the room and announced that their next challenge was to find the balloon they had left behind with their name on it among the hundreds of other balloons scattered in the large cafeteria. She warned them however to be very careful and not to pop any of the balloons. If they did, they would be disqualified.

While being very careful, but also trying to go as quickly as they could, each team member looked for the balloon with their name. After 15 minutes not one single person was able to find their balloon. The team was told that the second round of the game was over and they were moving onto the third round. In this next round the leader told the team members to find any balloon in the room with a name on it and give it to the person whose name was on it.

Within a couple of minutes every member of the team had their balloon with their own name on it. The team leader made the following point: “We are much more efficient when we are willing to share with each other. And we are better problem solvers when we are working together, not individually.”

Often members of teams create obstacles that get in the way of teamwork by solely focusing on their own pursuits and goals. They hoard information, avoid collaboration and distance themselves. It is bad for the team and it is bad for that individual. Every member of a team should ask themselves on a regular basis what they are doing for the team and can do for the team.

 

Integrity Series – Honesty pays

Is honesty another form of integrity? Small acts of honesty reaffirm faith in the integrity of mankind.

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Once a lady, attended a craft fair in rural Minnesota. She kept coming back to the weaving booth, very taken with a particular blue pattern. So she decided to buy a table runner and four place mats. When she got home and unpacked her bag, she found that the weaver had included a card with care instructions. She also found that she had mistakenly put five place mats into the bag. She was glad to have it but felt bad that the weaver had not been paid for this piece of work. So she found the address of the weaver on the care instructions card and sent her a note with a cheque for the price of one place mat. When the lady received her bank statement a few days later she found that the cheque had been returned with a big ‘Thank You’ printed on the back. 🙂

Integrity Series – Age no bar

Is integrity a virtue meant only for adults? The story below showcases the integrity of an ordinary student who stood up and challenged the malpractices within a system.

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Ghana has made big efforts to improve access to primary education. Primary school fees were abolished in 2005, substantially boosting enrolment rates and literacy levels among young Ghanaians. The relatively steep cost of higher education, however, remains an obstacle to equal opportunities. A case brought to Transparency International (TI) Ghana showed that some students at a polytechnic were being put at even greater disadvantage.

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It was alleged by one of the students named Kofi that students had been asked by lecturers to pay a supplementary charge for class hand-outs. As a “reward” they were reportedly promised an additional 20 per cent in their end of year grade. Many poorer students could simply not afford the cost, and they were faced with competing on an unequal basis with their better-off counterparts.

TI Ghana petitioned the authorities to address the issue. The school board conducted an internal investigation, and the accused staff members confessed. The school then resolved to make all school materials available for free or at affordable prices. TI Ghana hopes that Kofi’s case would promote similar changes throughout Ghana, where extorting students is believed to be widespread.

Integrity Series – Winning vs. Integrity

How difficult is it to overcome the temptation to win, especially when you are at an advantageous position? The story below highlights how a sportsman decided that his integrity was more important than winning any match.

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A while back, there was a story about Reuben Gonzolas, who was in the final match of his first professional racquetball tournament. He was playing the perennial champion for his first shot at a victory on the pro circuit. At match point in the fifth and final game, Gonzolas made a super “kill shot” into the front corner to win the tournament. The referee called it good, and one of the linemen confirmed the shot was a winner.

But after a moment’s hesitation, Gonzolas turned and declared that his shot had skipped into the wall, hitting the floor first. As a result, the serve went to his opponent, who went on to win the match. Reuben Gonzolas walked off the court; everyone was stunned. The next issue of a leading racquetball magazine featured Gonzolas on its cover. The lead editorial searched and questioned for an explanation for the first ever occurrence on the professional racquetball circuit.

Who could ever imagine it in any sport or endeavor? Here was a player with everything officially in his favor, with victory in his grasp, who disqualifies himself at match point and loses. When asked why he did it, Gonzolas replied, “It was the only thing I could do to maintain my integrity.